By Steve Kelman

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Do program managers belong in program offices, or in IT shops?"

I was involved in a conversation today about professionalizing IT program management in government. One sound bite really caught my attention: One participant reported speaking with the program manager for a multi-hundred-million-dollar IT system who reported he was also managing seven other efforts. All too often, this core competency for government has gotten real short-shrift. Mark Forman pushed this issue when he ran IT program management from the Office of Management and Budget at the beginning of the George W. Bush administration.

And now, as a tight budgetary environment has lowered tolerance for failed IT projects, the issue might come to the forefront again. There seems to be interest in the administration in emphasizing this issue, in the context of the ongoing reviews of large IT projects in trouble.

A serious investment in developing program management as a profession would have a side benefit. The government, of course, is having trouble recruiting talented young people into its IT workforce. A program management track would likely be attractive to many young people because it would involve them with a substantive program mission, provide management training and offer an opportunity to keep working on their technical skills, not as a worker bee but as a manager.

I would love to hear suggestions from readers about how to improve and revitalize the IT program management function. Where should it be located -- in IT shops or in user shops (when the users are not the IT shop)? What kind of training do people need, and how should it be provided? What skills do these managers need? How can we up the importance of this function in the government?

Posted by Steve Kelman on Oct 07, 2010 at 12:08 PM


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